Pubdate: Sat, 20 Jan 2018
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The London Free Press
Author: Megan Stacey
Page: A2


Temporary facility overdue 'because with every tick of the clock,
someone else's life could end,' says ex-addict

In a city where drug overdose deaths in the first three weeks of 2018
have nearly matched the entire 2017 death toll, there's finally an

Or at least a good start. Advocates say London's newly unveiled
overdose prevention site at 186 King St. - the first of its kind in
Ontario - is key to stemming the tide of overdose deaths in the city.

The local picture is so dire that Chris Mackie, the area's medical
officer of health, described London's challenges as a "big-city drug
problem in a mid-size city."

Already in 2018, five people have died from suspected overdoses -
three of them in a span of 48 hours.

London police statistics from last year show four overdose deaths -
and another four awaiting confirmation. But deputy chief Daryl
Longworth warned the true numbers are likely much higher when
unreported cases are included.

"We don't have time to wait, because with every tick of the clock,
someone else's life could end," Andy MacLean, a harm-reduction support
worker, said at Friday's announcement. He took on that role after
kicking his own addiction.

During the week between Christmas and New Year's, London had more
emergency room visits as a result of opioid overdoses than any region
in the province.

The temporary overdose-prevention site, which has provincial approval
to operate for at least six months, will offer a safe place to do
drugs under medical supervision, with clean equipment and easily
accessible naloxone, an opioid antidote, nearby. It's set to open Feb.

Brian Lester, executive director of the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection
in London, described the temporary facility as a "dress rehearsal" for
full-fledged supervised injection sites the city hopes to open later
this year. Like those more permanent facilities, London's temporary
site will offer community supports - including treatment information -
and a safe room for users to come down off a high.

Despite a vocal minority who oppose the harm-reduction measure,
community consultation done by the Middle sex London Health Unit
showed that only one per cent of people believe the
overdose-prevention site won't offer any benefits to the city.

"We know that the health impacts of supervised consumption are
positive. In general, the impact on the neighbourhood is positive as
well - less public injecting behaviour, less needle waste. We want to
see that happening in our community," Mackie said. "This temporary
site will really help us define what the more permanent sites will
look like."

Mayor Matt Brown said some kind of supervised facility is past

"So many people have died before we got here," he said. "This
temporary overdose-prevention site is going to save lives."

And it's a perfect fit for the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection in London,
which already works closely with many Londoners who use drugs through
a busy needle exchange program and other services.

"I don't imagine there'll be a new flood of folks, it'll be the people
who already know us and trust us. They'll say 'I want to opt in, I
want the support, because I don't want to die when I inject,' " Lester

Until now, staff at the downtown agency have had to tell clients that
they can't inject drugs on the property, basically shooing people away
in order to follow the law.

"It's hard for caring support workers to not have an option to help.
We can finally say yes," Lester said.

Once open, the temporary OD-prevention site will run Monday to Friday,
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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MAP posted-by: Matt